BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – 1. Preheat gymnasium to 72 degrees.
2. Start with one of the top senior backcourts in Lebanon County and toss in a solid, experienced inside presence.
3. Now sprinkle in liberal amounts of sophomore exuberance.
4. Add repetition, hard work and supportive direction.
5. Mix all the ingredients together.
6. Bake in practice for two-and-a-half weeks.
7. Let cool, before garnishing with sparkly uniforms, bright lights and fanatic fans.
8. Enjoy in hearty helpings.
Yes, it does appear that the Annville-Cleona girls’ basketball program has authored a simple recipe for success. Over the past few seasons, and without much fanfare, Little Dutchmen head coach Jamie Walborn has quietly cooked herself up a nice little pot of winning tradition.
A-C is coming off a successful campaign in 2012-13. And with many of the same pieces returning, what’s being featured on the Little Dutchmen menu this year is reheated leftovers.
“We have really good leadership with our three seniors,” said Walborn, who’s in her fourth season at the Little Dutchmen’s helm. “They’ve been doing this for three or four years now. We have a nice group of sophomores, and they’ve been playing together for a while. And they’re very coachable. It’s a solid eight we have right now. We’ll see how it goes. But having leaders like Alex (Siebecker), Kayla (Parks) and Gabby (Battle) makes the sophomores comfortable on the court.
“I think there’s carry-over from last season,” continued Walborn. “We lost two seniors, but we’re returning a good solid group who have played in big games. It’s not like we’re rebuilding, Our expectations are based on last year. We’re definitely counting on picking up where we left off.”
Two years removed from a seven-player-no-JV-team season, Annville-Cleona went 16-14 in 2012-13. Included with that were a second-place finish in Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, a fourth-place showing in the District Three Class AA tournament and a trip to the state playoffs.
“We did have a good season,” said Walborn, who’s currently working with 15 players. “For only playing six kids, we kind of lucked out with injuries. We peaked at the end of the season and in the playoffs. It was exciting. It was a good season.
“I feel like every year I have the same goals,” Walborn continued. “We want to finish first or second in the section. This group has never won a tip-off tournament, and we’d like to finish in the top three in the district. That (making it to states) was exciting for them last year. It was good for them to experience it because they had never done it before.”
With their athleticism, decision-making and scoring abilities, Siebecker, a 5-7 slashing off-guard, and Parks, a 5-6 ballhandling wiz of a point, comprise one of the top backcourts around. The 5-10 Battle, the third of the senior triumvirate, will be expected to score inside and corral caroms.
“It’s a little bit of both,” said Walborn of her coaching style matching the team’s propensity for a full court game. “They (the players) like playing full court. They like to be competitive in practice, and that comes from them. Our strength is our leadership. Kayla and Alex are the two top guards in our section. And Gabby is a solid inside presence.
“I guess an area of concern would be rebounding,” added Walborn. “(Graduated senior) Elaina Wanamaker was a huge rebounder for us last year. I think with our scoring we can fill in for her. But I’m concerned about our defensive play in the post. We’re going to have to work hard on rebounding. We have some athletic kids, but we’re going to have to work on boxing out.”
Annville-Cleona boasts a super sophomore class, to which the baton will be passed this season. At the top of that class appears to be talented Meredith Bachman, a 5-6 guard, and spunky Hannah Fisher, a 5-5 guard.
Those two figure to join the three seniors in A-C’s starting lineup, and the first three players off Walborn’s bench will also be tenth-graders. Steph Inman is a 5-9 forward, Taylor Winters is a 5-8 forward and Addie Hayes is a 5-3 guard.
“We’re definitely emphasizing defensive pressure,” Walborn said. “Our practices are quicker. We feel like we have a good solid group and that we don’t have to take the time to explain things. We’re much more fast-paced this year.
“I think we’re fairly ready,” Walborn added. “We have a lot of things to work on. There’s a lot we haven’t gone over. But I think they will be ready. They remember all the offenses. They’ve been picking things up fairly easily.”
The Little Dutchmen will begin their 2013-14 season on Friday, December 6 against Susquehannock in the opening round of the Elizabethtown Tip-off Tournament.
“I haven’t asked them about their goals yet,” said Walborn of her charges. “They usually tell me what they think. I’m sure they have their own goals.”